Chapter no 34 – Ryan Bailey

The Midnight Library

Ryan Bailey.

As in the Ryan Bailey. As in the Ryan Bailey of her fantasies, where they talked about Plato and Heidegger through a veil of steam in his West Hollywood hot tub.

‘Nora? You there? You look scared.’

‘Um, yeah. I’m . . . yeah . . . I’m . . . I’ve just . . . I’m here . . . On a bus . . . A big . . . touring . . . yeah . . . Hi.’

‘Guess where I am?’

She had no idea what to say. ‘Hot tub’ seemed entirely inappropriate as an answer. ‘I honestly don’t know.’

He panned the phone around a vast and opulent-looking villa, complete with bright furnishings and terracotta tiles and a four-poster double bed veiled in a mosquito net.

‘Nayarit, Mexico.’ He pronounced Mexico in a parody of Spanish, with the x as an h. He looked and sounded slightly dierent to the Ryan Bailey in the movies. A bit puer. A bit more slurred. Drunker, perhaps. ‘On location.

ey got me shooting Saloon 2.’

Last Chance Saloon 2? Oh, I so want to see the first one.’ He laughed as if she had told the most hilarious joke. ‘Still dry as ever, Nono.’


‘Staying at the Casa de Míta,’ he went on. ‘Remember? e weekend we had there? ey’ve put me in the exact same villa. You remember? I’m having a mezcal margarita in your honour. Where are you?’

‘Brazil. We were just doing a concert in São Paulo.’

‘Wow. Same landmass. at’s cool. at’s, yeah, cool.’ ‘It was really good,’ she said.

‘You’re sounding very formal.’

Nora was aware half of the bus was listening in. Ravi was staring at her as he drank a bottle of beer.

‘I’m just . . . you know . . . on the bus . . . ere are people around.’

‘People,’ he sighed, as if it was a swear word. ‘ere are always people.

at’s the fucking problem. But hey, I’ve been thinking a lot recently. About what you said on Jimmy Fallon . . .’

Nora tried to act as if every sentence he said wasn’t an animal running into the road.

‘What did I say?’

‘You know, about how it just ran its course. Me and you. How there were no hard feelings. I just want to thank you for saying that. Because I know I am a dicult fucking person. I know that. But I’m getting work for that. e therapist I’m seeing is really fucking good.’

at’s . . . great.’

‘I miss you, Nora. We had great times. But there is more to life than fantastic sex.’

‘Yes,’ said Nora, trying to keep her imagination in check. ‘Absolutely.’

‘We had all kinds of great. But you were right to finish it. You did the right thing, in the cosmic order of things. ere is no rejection, there is only redirection. You know, I’ve been thinking a lot. About the cosmos. I’ve been tuning in. And the cosmos has been telling me I need to get my shit together. It’s balance, man. What we had was too intense and our lives are too intense and it’s like Darwin’s third law of motion. About an action leading to a reaction. Something had to give. And you were the one who saw that and now we are just particles floating in the universe that may reconnect one day at the Chateau Marmont . . .’

She had no idea what to say. ‘I think that was Newton.’ ‘What?’

e third law of motion.’

He tilted his head, like a confused dog. ‘What?’ ‘Never mind. It doesn’t matter.’

He sighed.

‘Anyway, I’m going to finish this margarita. Because I’ve got an early training session. Mezcal, you see. Not tequila. Got to keep pure. Got this new trainer. is MMA guy. He’s intense.’


‘And Nono . . .’ ‘Yeah?’

‘Can you just call me your special name for me again?’ ‘Um—’

‘You know the one.’

‘Obviously. Yeah. Course.’ She tried to think what it could be. Ry-ry? Rye bread? Plato?

‘I can’t.’


She made a show of looking around. ‘Exactly. People. And you know, now that we’ve moved on with our lives, it seems a bit . . . inappropriate.’

He smiled a melancholy smile. ‘Listen. I’ll be there for the final LA show.

Front row. Staples Center. You won’t be able to stop me, got it?’ ‘at’s so sweet.’

‘Friends for ever?’ ‘Friends for ever.’

Sensing they were nearing the end of the conversation, Nora suddenly had something to ask.

‘Were you really into philosophy?’

He burped. It was strange how shocking it was to realise that Ryan Bailey was a human being in a human body that generated gas.


‘Philosophy. Years ago, when you were playing Plato in e Athenians you gave an interview and you said you read a lot of philosophy.’

‘I read life. And life is a philosophy.’

Nora had no idea what he meant, but deep down she was proud of this other version of her for dumping an A-list movie star.

‘I think you said at the time you read Martin Heidegger.’

‘Who is Martin Hot Dog? Oh, it was probably just press bullshit. You know, you say all sorts of shit.’

‘Yeah. Of course.’ ‘Adios, amiga.’

‘Adios, Ryan.’

And then he was gone and Joanna was smiling at her, saying nothing.

ere was something teacherly and comforting about Joanna. She imagined that this version of herself liked Joanna. But then she remembered she was supposed to do a podcast on behalf of a band where she didn’t know the names of fiy per cent of its members. Or the title of their last album. Or any of their albums.

e coach pulled up at a grand-looking hotel outside of town. Fancy cars with darkened windows. Palm trees wrapped in fairy lights. Architecture from another planet.

‘A former palace,’ Joanna told her. ‘Designed by a top Brazilian architect. I forget his name.’ She looked it up. ‘Oscar Niemeyer,’ she said aer a moment. ‘Modernist. But this is meant to be more opulent than his usual stu. Best hotel in Brazil . . .’

And then Nora saw a small crowd of people holding out their phones with outstretched arms, as if beggars with bowls, filming her arrival.

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